Cam­paign­ers aim to bring arms fair to its knees with week of protests

Oc­cupy camps, di­rect ac­tion and block­ades at Ex­cel

The Wharf - - Front Page - By Giles Broad­bent

P rotesters plan to lay siege to the Ex­cel ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre, in Dock­lands, for a week next week in an at­tempt to dis­rupt a ma­jor arms fair.

The DSEI Con­fer­ence, the world’s largest, heads to east Lon­don ev­ery two years, each time draw­ing a coali­tion of cam­paign­ers, some of whom set up camp as a staging post for di­rect ac­tion.

The po­lice usu­ally stage a ma­jor se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion but have re­fused to com­ment on de­tails of this year’s op­er­a­tion, as is their stan­dard prac­tice.

Ac­tivists from such groups as Cam­paign Against The Arms Trade are gear­ing up for days of protest and ac­tion from Mon­day (Septem­ber 4) to draw at­ten­tion to an event that likes to keep a low pro­file.

Keynote speak­ers in­clude de­fence sec­re­tary Sir Michael Fal­lon, In­ter­na­tional Trade Sec­re­tary Liam Fox and all of the top brass in the UK mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment.

The event, run­ning from Septem­ber 12-15, has 1,600 ex­hibit­ing com­pa­nies, dozens of in­ter­na­tional pavil­ions, 250 in­ter­na­tional del­e­ga­tions and dis­plays cov­er­ing land, air and sea se­cu­rity.

Naval ships from Ire­land and Bel­gium and the UK will berth in the Royal Docks where there will be dis­plays of in­ter­cep­tions by rigid in­flat­a­bles and the Royal Marines Off­shore Raid­ing Crafts. In­side the ex­hi­bi­tion will have on dis­play fighter jets and Chi­nook and Apache he­li­copters as well as count­less small arms.

An­drew Smith of Cam­paign Against Arms Trade said: “DSEI is one of the big­gest arms fairs in the world. It ex­ists purely to max­imise arms sales. Theresa May and her col­leagues may talk about pro­mot­ing hu­man rights but DSEI could not hap­pen with­out the full sup­port of gov­ern­ment.”

“A lot of the regimes in at­ten­dance have been linked to ter­ri­ble hu­man rights abuses, and events like DSEI only make them more likely in fu­ture.”

Or­gan­is­ers of the arms fair say they show­case “le­git­i­mate play­ers on the global stage” and they have a strict pol­icy over who can sell weapons and have ex­pelled ex­hibitors in the past for breach­ing rules.

ELAAF is hold­ing a num­ber of sym­bolic events dur­ing DSEI in­clud­ing a a candlelight vigil and a wreath lay­ing in mem­ory of the vic­tims of the arms trade.

“A huge and di­verse move­ment is build­ing to shut the arms fair down be­fore it gets started,” says Stop The Arms Fair, which plans to im­pede lor­ries as they bring in equip­ment as well as main­tain vig­ils and protests dur­ing the event.

Other events, un­der the Stop The Arms Fair ban­ner in­clude a day of wor­ship for faith groups, “di­rect ac­tion against nu­clear com­pa­nies” and a day-long aca­demic con­fer­ence on the perime­ter of Ex­cel.

An­other protest group, Oc­cupy The Arms Fair, is plan­ning to re­turn, set­ting up camp at the east of the cen­tre.

Oc­cupy says: “We will be back for a week-long camp dur­ing the week of ac­tion, cre­at­ing a friendly space for peo­ple to come and stay.”

Ac­tiv­ity will cul­mi­nate on Satur­day, Septem­ber 9, with the “Big Day of Ac­tion, a colour and pow­er­ful car­ni­val of re­sis­tance” aimed at “caus­ing havoc”.

DSEI or­gan­is­ers point to the broad range of se­cu­rity re­sponses on show, in­clud­ing meth­ods to re­duce the risk of Lon­don Bridge style ter­ror at­tacks, med­i­cal ad­vances and in­no­va­tions in cy­ber war­fare.

Event director Dun­can Reid said: “The cy­ber top­ics pro­vide a di­rect re­sponse to de­mands of cus­tomers from across the mil­i­tary, public sec­tor and in­dus­try. The ur­gent need for cy­ber se­cu­rity is reg­u­larly high­lighted as vi­tal to na­tional se­cu­rity.”

De­fence pro­cure­ment min­is­ter Har­ri­ett Bald­win said: “DSEI is a land­mark event pre­sent­ing to the world the ex­cel­lence of the UK de­fence and se­cu­rity busi­ness. For us in gov­ern­ment is is hugely im­por­tant, an im­por­tant show­case, a stage for di­plo­macy, a plat­form for in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment.”

Weapons, tanks and mis­siles are sold to regimes that op­press their own peo­ple ELAAF

A man is led away from protest at the last DSEI in 2015, be­low

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